Future of sport in Britain faces serious challenges, officials say | sport
UK sports leaders have painted a grim picture of the future of sport in this country, warning that everything from grassroots performance to elite performances is at risk due to lack of funding and the impact of the pandemic.
Despite the success of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the return of spectators and the reopening of recreation facilities, they say huge gaps remain in the sporting environment, posing significant risks.
Robert Morini, head of governance at UK Sport, said there were huge financial problems for all national governing bodies. But there were also ideas for the future, including a call from the director of Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby to give children Â£ 50 to spend on getting active.
“Sports organizations have faced particularly serious challenges even before Covid hit and even more now,” Morini told the Westminster Media Forum, a gathering of politicians and industry figures. âAt the macro level, there are declining financial incomes, limited financial reserves and no obvious way out of public funding.
âThe management and innovation of public sport is extremely complex with limited resources, competing priorities and pressures, including from public funding bodies. [There are] increasing responsibilities and overheads, significant challenges in governance, as well as the need to constantly attract diverse skills.
Morini said elite sport cannot be separated from the larger sporting environment, where core activity continues to decline. âI think it’s really important that high performance sport is connected to bigger and deeper issues within our society. Mental and physical well-being as well as obesity and inactivity in young people are starting to become long-term problemsâ¦ and have an impact on our performance.
Ed Warner, president of GB Wheelchair Rugby, agreed with Morini’s analysis. ParalympicsGB won the first medal for a European country in sport when they won gold in Tokyo. They did so when they had lost all of their domestic funding at the start of the four-year cycle. But Warner, former chairman of UK Athletics and author of sportsinc, said a lack of participation leaves some sports in existential crisis and called for a joint government solution.
“Many recreation centers remain closed,” he said, citing the example of a 40% drop in participation in badminton, Britain’s most popular racquet sport. âIf a sport cannot be played, it is no surprise that governing bodies and clubs suffer a financial blow from reduced membership. England Athletics suffered a 24% drop in membership in the first year of the pandemic. England Netball reported a 25% drop in membership dues.
âThe government needs a comprehensive strategy for the provision of multipurpose sports facilities and a willingness to spend accordingly. Right now, the money is flowing piecemeal to the smartest to run a system built on disparate funding pots. But often it is the less savvy in lobbying who represent the corners of society most in need of sporting opportunities. “
Warner has proposed that the government take action to stop the decline in activity levels by giving 11 to 16 year olds money to spend each year on sports. “Let’s look for interventions to encourage children, not just [them] take inspiration from sports stars they might see on a screen. A 50 â¬ voucher [would be] less than Â£ 300million, even though all vouchers have been spent. Repeat every year and you should help build some really healthy and useful habits. The multiplier effects of health savings could be phenomenal.